This week, it was reported in the New York Times that African American leaders and gay rights groups are forming alliances in the pursuit of civil rights.  The gathering was likely in response to the recent backlash received by the NAACP for its support of gay marriage without consulting its membership.  Chapter leaders and board members have resigned from the NAACP in protest, largely because the move has been seen as an appeasement to the Obama Administration that didn’t take the values of it’s church-going membership into serious consideration.

Likely in response to the criticism, gay rights leaders have agreed to support Rev. Al Sharpton in his march against the controversial “stop and frisk” policy being followed by the New York City police department.  The policy is responsible for the arrest of large numbers of black and latino residents of New York City, as police are stopping them without just cause.  The coalition is an important one for the civil rights of New York city residents, but it is difficult to see how this is going to affect the rest of the nation.

The growing relationship between black leaders and gay rights groups might be uncomfortable for some.  Many in the African American community have long been unhappy with the gay rights movement for at least a couple of reasons:  First, there is strong offense to the idea that “gay is the new black,” or that the struggle of gay citizens can be compared with that of African Americans.  Being black is not the same as being gay, no matter how you want to slice it.

Secondly, the black community has long maintained a distasteful degree of homophobia within its ranks.  A couple of cases in point that shine a light on this issue are a) the mass panic among black women after Oprah Winfrey did her popular show about men on the down-low, and b) The massive support from members of the black church received by Roland Martin when CNN punished him for his remarks that condoned violence against homosexuals.

Since Oprah did her show on secretly gay men, millions of black women see homosexuality as the boogeyman that threatens to destroy their relationships.  In fact, some women can overlook the flaws of a diseased womanizer who goes to church every Sunday, but can never forgive a man for being secretly gay. In the case of Roland Martin, some saw the CNN challenge to his nasty Twitter remarks to somehow imply that the gay community was seeking to force its agenda on the rest of us.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

A major concern about these political love-fests between black and gay leaders is that many of these so-called “coalitions” often end up being one-sided:  The black community is expected to give everything and is in-turn asked to expect nothing back.  Sure, the march against stop-and-frisk is a good start, but again, that only helps the residents of New York City.  When it comes to broader issues in black America, gay leadership is silent and unconcerned about the fact that our children are dying and our families are falling apart, largely due to unethical policies within our government.

My question is whether or not gay rights leaders are going to stand firm with the black community on far more pervasive matters, such as mass incarceration, the ready availability of guns that are killing black people every day or vast racial inequality in our educational system.  If I see gay rights groups and leaders speaking up and supporting the black community on these issues, then I’ll be impressed.  Otherwise, I am in agreement with those who see the sudden gay rights surge among black leaders to be nothing more than a decision to follow a mandate handed down by the White House.

Let’s be clear:  The NAACP and National Action Network likely would NOT have made statements in support of gay marriage (and in defiance of a large chunk of their support base) had the Obama Administration not pushed them to do so.  Sharpton must be given credit for having always been a proponent of gay marriage, but I doubt that those press releases would have flown out to the media had Obama not made a statement on the matter during the very same week.

Following the lead of someone else undermines your ability to call yourself a leader.  Instead, you might be best described as a follower and a pawn of someone else’s agenda.  African American leadership should be independent of undue political influence, and only interact with our political leaders to the extent that we are presenting our agenda to the administration. The last thing that the black community needs are public figures who are lining up like baby ducks on a pond following the liberal agenda wherever it may go.

Black people should not be forced to be unconditionally liberal if they do not want to be, and shaming them into supporting any policy is nothing short of oppressing the masses and undermining their right to a free Democratic voice.  Supporting President Obama is not the same as agreeing with everything he says and thus committing to policies with which you are not comfortable.  Paternalistic Democrats need to learn that black people are not their political pets.

Another interesting test of the new gay-black alliance is whether or not its going to continue once President Obama is no longer in office.  At that point, the incentive for African American leaders to form uncomfortable coalitions will likely not exist any longer.  It will be interesting to see if these relationships are lasting ones or if we are all attempting to morph our perspectives in response to the era of Obama.  The next few years are going to be interesting.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

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